Book cover from Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War by Sebastian Faulks
Book cover 'Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War'

Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War

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Author(s): Sebastian Faulks
Format: Book › Paperback all formats
Edition: Reprint
Published: 06-02-1997
ISBN: 0679776818
Pages: 496
Publisher: Vintage
List Price: $16.95

BooksToRead Review

Sebastian Faulks is one of England's most important writers of this time. He is known among other things, for his world-wide bestsellers Engleby and One week in December. Birdsong is widely regarded as one of the greatest novels of the First World War, and has now been filmed by the BBC as Birdsong.

In 1910, the young Englishman Stephen Wraysford is sent to Amiens by his employer to study the French textile industry. He falls in love with Isabelle, the wife of his landlord, and experiences a short, passionate relationship with her. She flees Amiens and Isabelle becomes pregnant, but she feels guilty and returns to her husband. Stephen becomes a British military at the Somme in 1916, the area where he lost his great love and soon to be the location for one of the greatest slaughters in human history. The horrific circumstances make Stephen an alienated bitter man, but he succeeds in surviving the inferno of the trenches. At the end of the seventies, his granddaughter, Elizabeth Benson, finds her grandfather's diaries in a dusty attic.

Book description

Published to international critical and popular acclaim, this intensely romantic yet stunningly realistic novel spans three generations and the unimaginable gulf between the First World War and the present. As the young Englishman Stephen Wraysford passes through a tempestuous love affair with Isabelle Azaire in France and enters the dark, surreal world beneath the trenches of No Man's Land, Sebastian Faulks creates a world of fiction that is as tragic as A Farewell to Arms and as sensuous as The English Patient. Crafted from the ruins of war and the indestructibility of love, Birdsong is a novel that will be read and marveled at for years to come.

Book review

Readers who are entranced by the sweeping Anglo sagas of Masterpiece Theatre will devour Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks's historical drama. A bestseller in England, there's even a little high-toned erotica thrown into the mix to convince the doubtful. The book's hero, a 20-year-old Englishman named Stephen Wraysford, finds his true love on a trip to Amiens in 1910. Unfortunately, she's already married, the wife of a wealthy textile baron. Wrayford convinces her to leave a life of passionless comfort to be at his side, but things do not turn out according to plan. Wraysford is haunted by this doomed affair and carries it with him into the trenches of World War I. Birdsong derives most of its power from its descriptions of mud and blood, and Wraysford's attempt to retain a scrap of humanity while surrounded by it. There is a simultaneous description of his present-day granddaughter's quest to read his diaries, which is designed to give some sense of perspective; this device is only somewhat successful. Nevertheless, Birdsong is an unflinching war story that is bookended by romances and a rewarding read.

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